As more companies seek impressive event backdrops, Hong Kong planners are pushed to show that the city has more than just meeting hotels and skyscraper-studded skylines.
As a growing number of companies consider off-site locations for their events, a more varied picture of venue options is emerging in Hong Kong.
According to business event players TTGmice interviewed, demand for non-hotel venues is on the rise. Pacific World’s business development manager, Dwirt Ang, for example, said that the company’s overseas clients often come with the idea that gala dinners work best when held away from the main meeting hotel.
“Over the past two years, clients are looking beyond technology (capabilities at the venue) and focusing on fostering personal connections. Though many hotel venues offer an amazing combination of venue space and great food and service, many high-end clients prefer that dinner events be held off-site (so) delegates can escape the monotony of ‘always’ being in a hotel for their events.”
Likewise, LORE’s managing director, Beatrice Remy, added: “(Many of our) corporate clients have already visited the destination and are looking for a fresh environment. (The appeal of) Airbnb and inspiring, entrepreneur-friendly workspaces is transferring into the events industry. Clients demand inspiration and surprise… we live in an experiential society.“
Examples of unconventional corporate event venues, shared Destination China’s general manager, Gunther Homerlein, include the Asia Society, which has a rooftop that gives a sense of the city without being “right in the middle of it”.
There’s also the Jao Tsung-I Academy, reminiscent of a bygone era; and the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, he added.
Moreover, the Po Toi O fishing village offers a refreshing backdrop, much different from the cityscape that the corporate crowd is so used to. “We have done a couple of great lunches at Po Toi O. We bring in wine, servers, cutlery, tables, while making use of the amazing restaurants and local feel of the place,” he shared.
Located in the Shouson Hill private suburb, Crown Wine Cellars, a UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Site, is ideal for board events or high level dinners.
While spaces not typically used for corporate events are coming onto the radar of planners, choosing off-site venues not equipped with a full kitchen comes with the downside of having to juggle permits, food safety and menu.
Pacific World’s Ang said: “It is always challenging, but it’s made easier if the venue is supportive and open to new ideas… It is also important to work with a well-established off-site catering company.”
Moreover, Homerlein pointed out: “Unfortunately (the city is faced with) a dearth of unique off-site venues that are available to clients. It is the city’s biggest drawback and the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) and other authorities do very little at all to help develop or seek new venues. So we have to stick with what we have and try and make more out of them.”
According to HKTB, the city boasts several innovative meeting facilities with more to come.
The Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon, for instance, is the first of its kind in the city. It includes a multi-purpose hall with low-carbon facilities and can accommodate over 100 delegates in a seminar setting, while its nine outdoor exhibition and landscape areas covering around 3,000m2 are ideal for exhibitions and events.
For heritage venues, there is the gothic-style Bethanie located in Pokfulam built by the French Mission in 1875. It now includes two performance venues, an exhibition hall, a chapel and a museum.
More is in the pipeline. Among the upcoming meeting and event facilities is the Harbour City Ocean Terminal Deck & New Extension at the end of Ocean Terminal. Catering both to tourists and business event delegates, the new facility will offer a 270-degree sea view of Victoria Harbour; 11 dining outlets with alfresco areas (six outlets have started operation); two event spaces, each sized 603.9m2; and a 200-seat outdoor grandstand. The rooftop takes in a lawn, terrace and lobby across 1,486m2 and can hold about 1,000 pax.
As well, the West Kowloon Cultural District (under construction at press time) will be home to flexible event spaces with versatile lawn and concrete paving, making it a good option for outdoor events.